By Sean Crose
Lucian Bute ain’t what he used to be. Granted, he might never have been what people said he was to begin with…but he’s still a diminished fighter. The man with the high knockout ratio is gone, as is the man who once was so smooth he was reminiscent of Ward, and even Mayweather.
Indeed, the fighter who battled Jean Pascal on Saturday night was overly tentative and not someone who would stand a chance against Adonis Stevensen, Sergey Kovalev, or Bernard Hopkins. Pascal, on the other hand, looked hungry.
Here was a man ready to get his career back on track, showing that the tutelage of Roy Jones Junior indeed had a positive impact. That tutelage may not have been enough to return Pascal to the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division, but it was certainly enough to keep the man relevant.
Watching Saturday’s brawl in Montreal, one couldn’t help but wonder if the beating Bute received at the hands of Carl Froch not all that long ago still wore heavily on the Romanian/Canadian’s mind. It’s not uncommon for traumatic events to permanently affect a boxer, after all, and Bute had the look of a man who simply didn’t know what to do.
Yet Bute wasn’t the only fighter in Montreal who may have been a prisoner of his own past. Mike Perez, the toast of Ireland (or is it Cuba?) certainly didn’t look like a promising heavyweight of the future as he battled Carlos Takam, a fighter from Cameroon who absolutely no one had given a chance of winning to. And while its true Takam didn’t win the fight, he did walk away with a majority draw and the respect of those who saw him in action.
In short, Takam is now on everyone’s radar. Perez, on the other hand, has become a far fainter blip than the one previously recorded. Was Perez so aversely affected by the damage he did to Magomed Abdusalamov weeks ago that he lost his will to potentially hurt another human being? Such a thing has arguably happened before.
Ray Mancini’s career can be split into two distinct sections: before and after his meeting with Duk Koo Kim. After beating the Korean warrior to an early grave, Mancini was clearly traumatized. He went on to lose twice to Livingstone Bramble and then more or less faded into the oblivion of the sport (a later, hyped match against Hector Camacho aside).
The truth is that some boxers can handle severe emotional and physical trauma while some cannot. Rocky Marciano knew what it meant to severely hurt another human being. Yet he was able to be empathetic as a person while remaining effective as a boxer. Bob Fitzimmons, who won the heavyweight title from Jim Corbett in the late 1800s, was said to have killed several men during the course of his career. He reportedly wasn’t moved at all by his destruction of human life, at least not until he became deeply religious in his later years.
It might be advisable for both Bute and Perez to take a long, hard look at their careers. Things may not be as dire as they seem. Perez is still undefeated, after all. And Bute was on fire during the 12th and final round against Pascal. Perhaps they need time to come to terms with their own dark pasts. Or perhaps they simply have to work on their skill sets.
Yet these men may, MAY have to ask themselves whether or not they’re able to continue on in the sport of boxing. Fighters have to be one hundred percent in the ring, both emotionally and physically. If they’re not, they may get hurt. Very hurt.
And that may be if they’re fortunate.